UK approach to lifting Covid restrictions urged as four nations meet

Credit: PA

The UK Government’s Welsh Secretary says the devolved governments of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will be urged at a meeting tonight to consider lifting as many Covid restrictions on July 19th as is happening in England. 

But Simon Hart also said it was up to those governments to make their decisions and acknowledged that there would still be differences. 

The Welsh Secretary confirmed that the next meeting of First Ministers would be held tonight at 5.15pm and would be chaired as usual by Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove.

Asked if well-publicised difficulties in Mr Gove’s personal life would disrupt the four-nation relationship and the system of meetings underpinning it, Simon Hart said “not at all. As far as I’m concerned it doesn’t impact on any discussions we have.”

There have been mixed messages from UK Government ministers about whether or not the devolved nations should announce similar unlocking of Covid restrictions at the same time as England on July 19th.

One, Robert Jenrick, said that the UK should “move as one” but Sajid Javid and the Prime Minister’s official spokesman have both said the decisions should be up to the devolved governments. 

Speaking to reporters, Simon Hart said that “We are always trying to see if we can find a way of proceeding in the same direction at the same pace and in much the same way across the whole of the UK because we think it is easier to communicate a message in that way and we think it increases the likelihood of compliance. 

“We think it provides business certainty, which is incredibly important. But we do recognise that there may be occasions when the evidence points to the need for a different approach. But I emphasise that, if there is a different approach being struck, then it is very important that the evidence that supports the divergences is also made very clear. 

“Otherwise  I think it can be very frustrating if you're a business on one side of the border, and you see regulations or legislation being changed on the other which may give your competitors an inadvertent advantage, so we will try as we always do to … see if we can get four nations, a UK wide approach to be as consistent as we can.”